Author Archive for ssunder

Whose Perspective Does Management School Research Take?

Management schools and departments spend a significant part of their resources on research conducted by their faculty and doctoral students. Published research is an important, sometimes dominant, criterion for evaluation of faculty for promotion and tenure. Organizations whose management is the subject of study in business schools are social entities in which many people participate for their own respective motives. In management research, the attention paid to the interests and perspectives of various classes of participants varies considerably. Shareholders and managers appear to get the lions share of this attention, with the interests of other employees, customers, vendors, government and the community receiving less attention in research literature. Continue reading ‘Whose Perspective Does Management School Research Take?’

Population and Environment

In his September 11, 2013 Times of India article (reproduced on Yale Global) “A Syrian Lesson for India” Nayan Chanda traces the origins of the current civil war in Syria to multi-year draught that generated a large migration of from the affected areas to Syrian cities. India (and many other countries) are so close to the environmental “edge” that even the historically natural variations in climate are almost certain to put the socio-political-economic system under unbearable stress in not very distant future. Since any discussion of population is politically incorrect, I am not even sure what else India (or Pakistan or Bangladesh for that matter) can do to ameliorate this risk. Interestingly, an article by Ellis in September 13, 2013 New York Times is titled “Overpopulation is not the problem.” Continue reading ‘Population and Environment’

Why I Refuse to Rank Scholarly Journals

I was recently asked to submit my ranking of a journal in my field of research to a panel of deans who had been tasked by their association to decide which journals belong to various categories on the basis of research published in them. I wrote to them to explain why I am reluctant to do so.
I hope you will forgive me for this unsolicited submission and my attempt to suggest that, on balance, ranking of academic journals, when used for the purpose of evaluating scholarly contributions of individual members of faculty, does more harm than good. Research is about ideas, innovation, and discourse. Not surprisingly, it calls for constant questioning of what we are doing, and why. By the time some line of work acquires the status of orthodoxy on the basis of method, theory or perspective, it is hardly worth doing any more. Most of what is done for the purpose of promotion and tenure is not worth doing, and the world might as well be better off if the resources were devoted to teaching and other endeavors. For this reason, I think that continual injection of new experimental journals into any discipline is an essential feature of keeping it alive as a scholarly field. Continue reading ‘Why I Refuse to Rank Scholarly Journals’

Improving Financial Reporting

Balancing statutory and common law approaches

At least since the introduction of federal securities laws in the U.S. some eighty years ago, attempts to regulation financial reporting have become increasingly focused on writing down the rules of accounting in ever-increasing detail. This codification or statutory approach to accounting regulation has marginalized the earlier dominance of a “common law” approach to accounting in which managers, accountants, and auditors used their best judgments to decide what to report, and how to report it. “True-and-fair” was the accounting equivalent of the “guilty-beyond-reasonable-doubt” standard still used by lay juries in courts of law to make life-and-death decisions. In pursuit of faux objectivity, accounting regulators around the world, including the U.S. and the European Union, have strayed after being persuaded that writing thousands of pages of rules by bureaucracies with monopoly power will serve us better. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Continue reading ‘Improving Financial Reporting’

Academic Research as Unfiltered Water

Contents of our research journals are like unfiltered water. Decision and policy makers should stand forewarned before they use the contents of academic journals to guide them in their work. Fortunately, most of them maintain a healthy skeptical attitude to our findings and prescriptions until they have more evidence on their efficacy.

This is not to minimize the labor of editors and referees who spend months scrutinizing scholarly work for shortcomings before allowing it to be published in journals. This work may be necessary but rarely sufficient to prepare new ideas and research findings to be put to actual use. The editorial process is already quite arduous, and making it  longer will add more delay before new ideas can be disseminated for broader discussion and evaluation.

Scholarly scrutiny is based on scholarly knowledge with its own limitations. There is much about the world that even the most knowledgeable person does not know. Full consequences of most, if not all, research reports cannot be known until they go through a much longer process of filtration at multiple levels. This can take years, even decades. Only a small fraction of new ideas survive this lengthy scrutiny and experience through trials in the field. When they do, we have greater confidence that the results of putting them into practice have a lower chance of yielding a surprise.

Research findings published in academic journals rarely have had the opportunity to be filtered by experience, robustness, and common sense. Researchers, public relations offices of universities and corporations, as well as the mass media have all the incentives to pronounce on the practical implications of new findings from academic research way before these findings are ready for the prime time. It is only an aggressive decision maker who jumps at such announcements without allowing for the fact that research journals are forums for proposing new ideas that show some initial promise; some good ideas are mixed in with a lot of bad ones in this offering. Temptation to get a jump on the competition, being photographed for the newspapers and testifying in Congress is high for those willing to take the risk of being proved wrong.

The recent brouhaha about the Reinhard and Rogoff research paper is hardly a unique example. Computational errors are not that uncommon. But given time, they have a better chance of being caught and rectified before they do much damage. The story may be remembered more for the consequences of the alacrity in incorporating unfiltered academic research into public policy.

Pakistan’s population up by 46.9 per cent since 1998

On March 30, 2012, the Dawn reported that Pakistan’s population increased by 46.9 percent between 1998 and 2011. Continue reading ‘Pakistan’s population up by 46.9 per cent since 1998′

Challenges of Running a University in India

Three key challenges are: (1) trust and trustworthiness, (2) balance of vigilance and docility, and most important, (3) the regard for public goods. Continue reading ‘Challenges of Running a University in India’

Problems of Higher Education in India

If and when the fast growing crisis of higher education in India is recognized by government, business community, faculty, students, and the public, solutions to the problem would have to be devised from within. Outside solutions are unlikely to work, and will likely be rejected by a proud society.

Broadly speaking, solutions are needed for (1) attracting a significant number of top students from each year’s class to universities as teachers and researchers (i.e., get India’s Einsteins into universities instead of selling soap, trading securities, or writing computer code); (2) finding a way of financing higher education through a judicious combination of government grants, private philanthropy, student fees, and royalties from research–this will have to be accomplished without profit-seeking capital in higher education because nobody in the world has yet found a way of delivering quality education without significant subsidies; (3) persuading business and political communities and it is in their own best long-run interest to strengthen delivery of quality of higher education by abandoning their pursuit of profits from education in favor of donations; (4) improving the governance of colleges, universities and their regulators through training, legislation, and restructuring; (5) enforcement of Societies Act and transparent public financial reporting by all organizations and institutions of higher education; and (6) amendment of India’s Constitution to eliminate the special status granted therein to the teachers. Continue reading ‘Problems of Higher Education in India’

John Wilson Dickhaut (1942-2010)

I first met John Dickhaut in January 1973, when I interviewed at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business as a rookie faculty candidate. I noticed his unusual combination of simultaneous playfulness and intensity. Later that fall when I joined him as a colleague, he was going through a difficult personal phase. That unusual combination kept showing up often in conversations—his light-hearted comments had a serious undercurrent, and his serious remarks covered the ideas he was have fun playing with and turning over and over in his head. I once asked him about his intensity, and he told me about his training in method acting when he hurt someone with a knife on the stage, and fortunately for us all, turned from stage to scholarship.

Continue reading ‘John Wilson Dickhaut (1942-2010)’

People misbehaved in Delhi BECAUSE police was not there!-news report

Indo-Asian News Service (January 02, 2012 19:23 IST) informs its readers (

Gurgaon: The drunken hooliganism witnessed here during New Year celebrations, when hundreds of revellers created ruckus on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road and even molested a woman, occurred due to shortage of police personnel, eyewitnesses said on Monday.

Now it is a remarkable proposition for a free democratic society: the witnesses find the reason for molestation of women to be the absence of police to prevent such behavior. Even more remarkable is the fact the reporter accepted and reported this explanation on the news wire. Perhaps Justice Katju, the chair of Press Council of India is right after all.